Sean McDermott has been hired as the Buffalo Bills‘ new head coach.
The Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator was officially named 20th head coach in Bills franchise history Wednesday. The Buffalo News first reported the strong likelihood that McDermott would be the next head coach in Buffalo.
“Sean McDermott is an excellent football coach and we feel he is the perfect leader for this team,” general manager Doug Whaley said in a statement. “Sean’s intelligence, leadership qualities and vision for our team impressed us throughout the interview process.”
The move seems to be both practical and symbolic for an organization looking to move on from the hastily discarded Rex Ryan era. McDermott, a longtime defensive coordinator like Ryan, runs a different system (a base 4-3 instead of Ryan’s 3-4) and has more of a reputation as an elastic play-caller. The players create the system, not the other way around.
With many Bills players mentioning a lack of discipline following Ryan’s ouster, it’s also no surprise that McDermott, known for his tough demeanor in the likeness of mentor Jim Johnson, rose to the top of the candidate pool. The Bills are heavily invested in a slew of defensive talent, most of which has underperformed in recent years. Buffalo finished 16th in points surrendered and 19th in yards surrendered this season. In 2015, they were 15th and 19th, respectively.
As the architect behind Carolina’s highly regarded defense, McDermott’s units finished in the top 10 in takeaways each season since 2013. He twice finished in the top 10 in points allowed (second in 2013 and sixth in 2015) since arriving with the Panthers before the entire team took a tumble in 2016. This past season, the 6-10 Panthers were 26th in points surrendered and 21st in yards. Rapoport also reports that secondary coach Steve Wilks is likely to be promoted to DC in Carolina.
McDermott had the benefit of working with a kindred spirit, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, in Carolina, who always believed that a good football team was built with a quarterback first, then through the defensive line. While Buffalo’s personnel — Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Shaq Lawson, to name a few — is strong up front, it doesn’t necessarily stack up with a rotation that included Kony Ealy, Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Vernon Butler and Charles Johnson.
McDermott’s first job will undoubtedly be knocking the dust off Dareus and Lawson’s potential. He’ll likely tap Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb to be his defensive coordinator in Buffalo, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Like Ryan, though, the true challenge will be finding an offensive coordinator who can turn a scattered group of talented players on offense into something that can compete with the Patriots and rapidly improving Dolphins. In a division that doesn’t show signs of getting softer, the Bills are jumping at the chance to toughen up.